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Just One Look

Tai Seng // Unrated // April 20, 2004
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted June 2, 2004 | E-mail the Author

Don't let the cover art and the insipid title fool you, Just One Look (2002) isn't your regular comedic, hopelessly sappy, romantic, Hong Kong crowd pleaser. Okay, so it is sappy, funny, and hopelessly romantic, but in an appealing enough way that won't make you want to gag over its syrupy sweet musings. Not only is it pretty decent, but for HK cinema geeks (raise your hands- I know mine is up), a major part of the plotting revolves around classic kung fu films.

Set in the early 70's, Fan (Shawn Yue- Infernal Affairs) and "Fishball" Ming (who sports a very Kool and the Gang afro) are child hood pals who have grown into their maturing teen years. When he was very little, Fan's depressed and debt ridden father committed suicide, which Fan never accepted and instead blames on the local small time gangster Crazy (Anthony Wong- Untold Story, Full Contact and a thousand other films). Fan and Ming sell sugarcane and fishballs outside of the towns movie theater, and their free time is spent goofing off with friends, ogling women, and for Fan, his ten year long campaign of secretly slingshotting rocks at Crazy's head.

The two begin to take kung fu lessons, Fan because he wants some skill to use against Crazy one day, and Ming because the instructors daughter, Nam (Charlene Choi- Vampire Effect) is pretty, so much so they dub her "Chivalrous Lady" after actress Cheng Pei-Pei. When Fan meets a mysterious girl (Gillian Chung- again, Vampire Effect) who lives in a nearby island monastery, he courts the sheltered beauty by using old movie marquees and pamphlets.

Usually these kind of cheesy comedy/saccharine romance flicks are aimed strictly at the teeny bopper crowd. And, seeing as how the films two lead female roles are played by the premanufactured Cantopop duo Twins, pre-judging it as fluff would be understandable. But, with its heavy doses of old school HK cinema references and not perfect and tidy happy ending, the film aims at a wider crowd and finds its mark as an entertaining romantic nostalgia piece with some touches of comedy (that work) and straight drama (that sorta' work).

Metade Fumica director Kam-hung Yip has crafted a nice coming of age film with interesting characters, good balance of humor, and a plot that is a love letter to classic HK film. Amoung the films mentioned are Chang Cheh's Boxer from Shantung and Vengeance (their kung fu instructor, a closet kung fu fan, complains about how Cheng Cheh always has a hero fighting despite his guts spilling out.), Melody, the original Fruit is Swelling, and the characters even find themselves transported into the likes of 999 and Touch of Zen.

The DVD: Tai Seng

Picture: Non-Anamorphic Widescreen. A middling affair. For a film this recent it really shouldn't have the spots that pop up throughout the film. Obviously, since it is not anamorphic, it isn't as technically fluid as it could be, and, in addition, you will also find the twittering of some artifacts. Other than these flaws, the actual image look pretty good. Decent contrast and sharpness. Colors are pretty well rounded, especially the warm flesh tones. It is a shame the disc isn't as technically sound as it should be, since that fact alone is what will keep me front jumping at an instant recommendation.

Sound: Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 plus Cantonese or Mandarin Dolby 2.0 options. Optional English subtitles. Like any good HK romance, the film has not one but two musical interludes. It is really in the music that the 5.1 shines, the rest, the dialogue and fx, are pretty basic, as one would expect since this isn't a film in need of many sound gymnastics.

Extras: Chapter Selections— Just One Look HK trailer and two music video trailers.

Conclusion: You know what? This one is a real charmer. Bear in mind that is coming from a guy with pretty dark tastes and a real aversion to sappiness. However, this film did manage to win me over, and HK fans might find it to be just as pleasant as I did. The DVD is a middling affair- iffy image quality, bare extras, so those with lighter wallets may want to save it for a rental.

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